PILOT MOUNTAIN — Jesse Anderson, park ranger for Pilot Mountain State Park, led a Pilot Creek exploration last Thursday for those interested in learning more about the “critters” that inhabit the creek.
The specific section of the creek where the exploration focused was located near 300 Boyd Nelson Road in Pinnacle.
Anderson noted that the land that borders the creek is actually a new addition to the state park, having been acquired in December.
Pilot Creek runs down from the mountain and is generally clear, Anderson explained.
Despite the fact that the creek is predominately clear, Anderson said that different species adapt to different types of pollution, adding that the number one pollutant in the state is sediment.
With the abundance of farm land that borders creeks, Anderson noted that a way to protect against sediment pollution is through a riparian zone, which is a section of grown up vegetation along the creek bank that acts as a filter to pollutants.
One of the creek “critters” that Anderson cited as being impacted by sediment pollution is the Eastern Hellbender salamander, which is primarily found in the western part of the state.
Anderson instructed that when handling salamanders, members of the exploration group needed to make sure that their hands were wet and cold due to the fact that salamanders are cold blooded creatures.
While searching for macroinvertebrates, Anderson told participants to look under rocks and to carefully comb over the bottom of the rocks, because macroinvertebrates tend to cling onto the surfaces of the rocks.
Following the turning of rocks, Anderson stressed the importance of ensuring that the rocks are returned to the exact same location and position that they were before looking under them, citing the fact that the rocks serve as a home for creek life.
Anderson said that different areas of the creek are home to different species, noting that in faster ripples of the creek you’re more likely to find macroinvertebrates.
Other “critters” that were discovered during the exploration included cactus flies, which Anderson explained only come out during certain times of the year and have a tendency to be explosive breeders.
Cactus flies, as Anderson said, are used as jewelry in some countries.
Crawfish were a staple throughout the exploration and following Anderson’s advisement, explorers always held the fish from the backside so that they wouldn’t be bitten.
Anderson said that crawfish, like humans, shed their skin. Whenever a member of the exploration wanted to hang onto one of the crawfish for further examination, there was a separate container due to the fact that the crawfish would eat some of the smaller creatures.
Two of the members of the exploration group, Kelly Kiker and Julian Dooley, drove to Pilot Mountain from Lexington for the event.
Kiker is a high school environmental science teacher and noted some of the overlaps between the exploration and what she teaches her students in the classroom.
Anderson said that he hopes the creek exploration events will gain popularity and participation in the future.
Upcoming events for Pilot Mountain State Park include:
– Frog Watch! on July 28 at 8:30 p.m.
-Pilot Creek Exploration on July 30 at 2 p.m.
-Jomeokee Hike on September 4 at 10 a.m.
-Intro to Map/Compass Campground on September 13 at 10 a.m.
-Fire Ecology Hike on September 15 at 6 pm.